Trump intensifies criticism of Attorney-General Jeff Sessions

US Attorney General Jeff Sessions testifies before a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, US on June 13, 2017.
US Attorney General Jeff Sessions testifies before a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, US on June 13, 2017. PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (AFP) - Mr Donald Trump's war of words against his Attorney-General and one-time ally Jeff Sessions escalated on Monday (July 24), raising speculation the President may be preparing the ground to replace him.

Mr Trump and his advisers are in fact talking about the possibility of replacing Mr Sessions, The Washington Post reported on Monday evening (Tuesday morning Singapore time), quoting people familiar with these discussions.

Mr Trump earlier took to Twitter to declare his top law enforcement official "beleaguered" as he wondered out loud why Mr Sessions was not investigating 2016 presidential candidate and former secretary of state Hillary Clinton.

"So why aren't the Committees and investigators, and of course our beleaguered A.G., looking into Crooked Hillarys crimes & Russia relations?" Mr Trump asked.

US Presidents normally avoid being seen as influential on ongoing or possible investigations at all costs.

But it is Mr Trump's comments about his erstwhile friend that have raised eyebrows.

He has expressed increasing anger with Mr Sessions as his Justice Department's investigations into possible Trump-Russia collusion has quickened.

Last week, Mr Trump publicly upbraided Mr Sessions for stepping back from issues related to the probe.

Mr Sessions recused himself because of his role on Mr Trump's campaign and previously undisclosed contacts with the Russian ambassador in Washington.

Mr Trump said he would never have hired Mr Sessions had he known he would recuse himself.

"I think is very unfair to the President," Mr Trump told The New York Times last week. "It's extremely unfair, and that's a mild word, to the President."

Mr Sessions said he had no plans to resign.

That increasingly appears problematic for Mr Trump as he struggles to influence an investigation that has ensnared his eldest son, son-in-law and top aides.

In May, Mr Trump fired FBI director James Comey over the bureau's investigation into Russia. That led to the appointment of high-powered special prosecutor Robert Mueller.

The Post report said Mr Trump's associates see getting rid of Mr Sessions as part of a potential strategy to fire Mr Mueller and end the Russia investigation.

Shortly after Mr Trump's tweet, the website Axios reported that he was considering replacing Mr Sessions with another early supporter, Mr Rudy Giuliani, a former New York mayor.

If he were confirmed by Congress, that appointment could open the door to Mr Trump firing Mr Mueller or having an attorney-general who can directly influence the investigation. Mr Sessions cannot because he has recused himself.